In 2019, the Texas foster care system set adoption records, with the number of children adopted in Texas reaching 6,000. Adoptive placement can help ensure that thousands of children given up by their birth parents or entering the foster care system get the love and care they need. Unfortunately, parents looking to adopt must battle through a complex and time-consuming legal process.
If you are interested in adopting a child but are intimidated by the legal complexities, an adoption attorney at the Law Offices of Chris Schmiedeke, P.C. can make the adoption process easier. We can offer legal advice and guide you through each step.
The state of Texas has minimum requirements to qualify for adoption, though it is important to note that individual agencies may set their own requirements that may be more stringent than the minimum standards. The basic requirements to adopt in our state include:
The adoption agency may require lawful permanent citizenship in the U.S., but this is not a state requirement.
A physical examination for all household members may also be required, with chronic conditions evaluated on a case-by-case basis. You do not have to be in perfect health, but it is essential that you can meet the physical demands of providing child care. As part of the home study process, you must make your medical records available to social services.
A popular myth is that only wealthy people get to adopt. Nothing could be further from the truth. You do not have to be wealthy to become an adoptive family. You do, however, need to be financially stable and able to afford the costs of raising and caring for the adopted child.
The emotional requirements for adoption opportunities are tricky. You cannot provide documents to prove that you are emotionally sound to adopt a child. As part of the adoption program, the adoption agency will address issues of infertility, miscarriage, grief, or trauma. If you have suffered a loss of this nature, you may wish to explore therapy or support groups to help you get through this difficult time. You will go through free training to educate yourself and become emotionally prepared for the adoption process.
The goal is to ensure that the adoptive parents are both on the same page with the adoption plan, will remain supportive of the adoption goal, are properly prepared for the relationship with the child, and are committed to the challenges and blessings of the adoption journey.
Many people mistakenly believe that you must be married to adopt in Texas or that same-sex couples will be barred from adoption. Once again, neither of these is true. Texas has no laws stating that marriage is required or barring same-sex LGBTQ couples from becoming adoptive parents. So long as you can meet the physical, financial, and emotional requirements of adoption, you can file an application.
If you have any questions about the adoption process or requirements in Texas, the Law Offices of Chris Schmiedeke, P.C. may be able to help. Call us at 214-624-7897 or use our contact form to discuss your adoption needs today.
To understand the adoption time frame, it is first important to understand the steps involved in the adoption process. The exact process may vary depending on the type of adoption, but the steps you may need to undergo can include any or all of the following:
The state of Texas has several general methods of adoption. Each type of adoption may change the process for prospective adoptive parents in specific ways. These adoption types include:
It is also important to understand the differences between open and closed adoptions.
Private adoptions involve a direct agreement between the prospective adoptive parents and the biological parents. They can be open or closed after the completion of the adoption and are usually done through a private agency. Private adoptions are limited to domestic infant adoption; that is, only infants born in the United States are generally adopted through this process.
International adoption agencies can be used to adopt children of all ages, from newborns and toddlers to teens. International adoption, however, may carry extra steps and legal processes and are subject to national, international, and state regulations. If you wish to adopt a child through international channels, it is important to have representation from a qualified adoption attorney.
Child Protective Services (CPS), sometimes colloquially referred to as child welfare, is the most common avenue for an adoption plan. Those looking to adopt through the foster care system will deal with CPS. Those interested in adopting an older child, a child with special needs, or a type of child outside of an infant also will likely deal with CPS.
Foster care adoption includes foster parents looking to transition their foster child to a permanent adoptive child. Information about and help with this method of adoption can be found at the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange.
The issue of open vs. closed adoptions is a big decision. With an open adoption, the birth mother or birth parents maintain some of their rights, at least to follow their child as they grow. These types of adoption see the adoptive family create guidelines with the birth family that determine factors such as visitation rights, information, and the like.
Closed adoptions, on the other hand, sometimes see the birth mother or birth parents able to receive general information but nothing specific, and the adoptive parents likewise will know nothing aside from very general information about the birth family. Even in a closed adoption, however, you should have pre-placement information about the child and family background, important medical information, and the like before you adopt a child.
The adoption process requires you to attend informational meetings to explore the requirements and scope of becoming an adoptive or foster parent. At these meetings, you can ask questions and receive information about the process. If your area has no informational meetings, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) will give you the necessary information. No appointment is necessary, and you can check with DFPS for free information about meetings in your area.
Additional training will be required if you choose to be a foster parent instead of adopting. Foster training involves 16 hours of pre-placement education plus an additional 35-hour competency program called Parent Resource Information Development Education (PRIDE).
The next step is creating an adoption profile. In a closed adoption, this profile is the only thing the birth mother will normally see. The profile should include information such as:
Your profile can start with a note to the birth mother that should have a warm and supportive tone. Next, describe your family and life. Show off the type of person you are and highlight the things that excite you. Talk about your relationship as a couple (if you are not a single person), and talk about yourself as a person. You can even include photos of your pets, home, and family activities.
Every adoption requires a home study. Often, this study is performed by a social worker or other adoption professional from Child Protective Services or the adoption agency. Sometimes, the state and adoption agency may conduct separate home studies. During the home study, the caseworker will investigate your family interests, lifestyle, personal history, strengths, child care skills and history, and ability to meet the child’s needs.
The caseworker may interview any or all members of your household. You will also be asked to complete criminal background checks at the state and federal level, as well as present financial and medical records. Out-of-state prospective adoptive parents are required by Texas to have criminal background checks performed in Texas.
The Department of Family and Protective Services offers resources for finding foster care and adoption agencies. Resources such as AdoptUSKids provide help connecting foster children with families. Before you choose an agency, you should carefully review its requirements to ensure that you meet the prerequisites. Some agencies may require a referral to use their services.
Also, take the time to research the organization, including looking them up on the Better Business Bureau website to help ensure that they are legitimate and aboveboard. If you are uncertain about adoption agencies, your Texas adoption attorney may be able to provide guidance.
After completing all the necessary steps above, the waiting period begins. Prospective birth mothers or adoption agencies will review your profile for matches, and the adoption wait time can take a while. It is important that the child you adopt is a good match for your family. Patience can be difficult but is important, and while you wait, you should simply go about your normal life. Avoid obsessing over the adoption. During this time, the process is out of your hands.
Meeting the birth parents usually happens with infant adoptions through private agencies. Adoptions involving older children through CPS may have a different process entirely. During private infant adoptions, the birth mother will select the adoptive family she feels is right for her child and will often wish to sit down with the birth parents to offer legal consent, which can be given no sooner than 48 hours after the birth.
This is the moment you meet your child for the first time. The exact circumstances of placement are unique to each adoption. Usually, with domestic infant adoptions, this occurs at the hospital when the birth mother gives legal consent. In foster care adoptions, the child usually comes to the home. With international adoptions, you may travel to the child’s country of origin to meet them.
After the necessary steps above are completed, the adoption is finalized. This should be an exciting time for you and the child as you take on your new parental rights. Finalized adoptions require a few additional steps. If the adoption is interstate, you will complete the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) paperwork.
Several post-placement visits occur with an adoption professional or social worker, usually the same person who completed the home study. These post-adoption services show the courts that you and the child are adjusting well. In Texas, usually, five post-placement visits occur.
Following the post-placement visits, you will attend a finalization hearing, where a judge will conduct a final review of the adoption. This hearing must occur no sooner than six months after placement, according to Texas law. Each county has its own guidelines for attending the hearing. Your adoption attorney can provide guidance.
Each adoption is unique, and it is impossible to say exactly how long your adoption process will take. It depends on the type of adoption and how many children for adoption are available that are a good match, among other factors.
Approximately 84 percent of families that seek to adopt a newborn and use an adoption agency find a match within two years. Likewise, 86 percent of those who seek to adopt a newborn with the help of an adoption attorney find matches within two years.
International adoptions, on the other hand, can take up to five years. Using the One Church, One Child service takes between six and nine months.
Once again, each adoption is unique and individual, and the costs can widely range. It is important to review the documentation you get from your adoption agency or adoption attorney. Adopting a child through the state costs anywhere from $300 to $400.
Adopting through a private agency can range from $5,000 to as much as $40,000, depending on the agency. A 2015 study in Adoptive Families listed the average cost of international adoption to be around $42,000 and the cost of newborn adoptions to be around $38,000 on average. Some agencies may provide financial assistance. Your adoption attorney can often point you toward resources in this area.
A vital part of the adoption process is reviewing the financial policies of the adoption agency. Adoption fees can greatly vary between agencies, as well as policies regarding refunds. The most common complaints from adoptive parents arise from financial disputes, and the licensing authority for these agencies, Residential Child Care Licensing (RCCL), has limited authority to police such contracts.
This means that prospective adoptive parents can best protect themselves by understanding the minimum standards relating to adoption fees and carefully reviewing the adoption policies of their individual chosen adoption agency.
After the process is completed, a few things can shorten the adoption wait time. You can take steps to shorten the overall time frame, and it almost all comes down to preparation.
Know what you want before you go into the process, and make as many decisions as you can before you begin. However, it is important to note that the more specific you are, the longer you will wait. The most successful adoption stories involve adoptive parents with open hearts and minds.
As you explore adoption agencies, keep detailed notes and records of each one. Be sure to ask each agency how many successful placements they complete every year. An agency with more placements is more likely to quickly match you to a child than one that does very few placements.
Remember, your adoption profile is your chance to sell yourself as a good prospective parent for the child. The better your adoption profile is, the more likely you will be to get a solid, quick match.
Many aspects of the adoption process in Texas can be quite confusing and complex. Waiting on a match and getting ICPC approval can be frustrating and seems to take forever. Having an adoption attorney in your corner can help smooth over some of these legal road bumps.
Your attorney can communicate on your behalf, guide you through the difficulties of home visits and background checks, and help ensure that all of your paperwork is properly completed and filed on time. They can also provide information and referrals to post-adoption services and other resources to help you make the most of your time as a new adoptive parent.
When you partner with the Law Offices of Chris Schmiedeke, P.C., you can benefit from a communicative attorney-client relationship that focuses on listening to your legal issues and providing customized solutions for your unique circumstances. Adoption can be complicated, but our professionals strive to make it as simple as possible for you. Take a look at what some of our previous clients have had to say about our legal services.
“Our experience with Chris was nothing short of wonderful. The great service and attentiveness began with Shelly and did not disappoint by the time we got to Chris. My husband and I left our meeting happy, excited, and extremely confident that our needs will be met.” — Alandria S.
“Their administrative staff is amazing!! They were so helpful and took care of everything that was needed! Chris is also very nice and takes time to explain things and answer questions.” — Heather S.
Quite a few circumstances can block you from adopting a child in Texas. Here are the disqualifying factors to be aware of.
In most cases, a biological parent cannot regain custody after adoption in Texas. Once a biological parent loses their parental rights, they also lose the ability to bring a custody lawsuit regarding their child to court. From the court’s perspective, the biological parent who terminated their parental rights is no different legally than a biological parent who is dead. The only conceivable way to regain custody after the termination of parental rights is to demonstrate that the termination of rights was done under some sort of fraud or deception.
Adoption is a legally complex, time-consuming process. The Law Offices of Chris Schmiedeke are here to smooth out the process and help you complete your family. Call us today at 214-624-7897 or use our online contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our team.
What is the First Step in the Texas Adoption Process?: The adoption process is long and complicated, so it is important that you take the first step correctly.
Stepparent Adoption Steps in Texas: A stepparent adopting a child is a relatively common practice in Texas, and it allows a stepparent to have the same legal parental rights as their partner, one of the biological parents.
I was born in Dallas and spent the majority of my life here. I moved to Denver in the middle of the first grade and moved back to Plano in the middle of the eleventh grade. I graduated from Plano Senior High in 1984 and then attended Richland College and the University of North Texas where a received a Bachelor of Business Administration. From there I attended the Texas Tech University School of Law and was licensed to practice law in May of 1993.